After navigating the first two stretches of water, the English Channel and the North Atlantic, Groupama 34 is dominating this Tour de France à la Voile with a 55-point lead over the second boat. In the past 35 editions of the Tour, it would seem that such a performance has never been matched before. Franck Cammas certainly isn’t letting it be said that he has already won the Tour however. Mathematically, the skipper of Groupama 34 is right, as there are still nearly 2/3 of the points to be distributed in the Mediterranean section of the race. As such, anything is still possible.
M34 ©Groupama
Though some observers were beginning to cast some doubt over Groupama sailing team’s ability to win this Tour, the three races contested at Saint Gilles Croix de Vie will have given them a cold shower, with three superb victories secured by Franck and his crew, as Bretagne Crédit Mutuel lament a poor day’s racing.

As has often been the case since the start in Dunkirk, the crew of Groupama 34 got off to some good and not overly risky starts, made fast headway, manoeuvred to perfection and opted for the right tacks with a very inspired Tanguy Cariou calling tactics: “It’s true that we’re very quick in the light airs. The crew is highly focused too”, explains a cheerful Franck Cammas, surprised when he’s asked if he can let some other competitors win sometime. “If we could win everything, we wouldn’t deprive ourselves of it. Don’t think for a minute that it’s easy though. The general level is very high and the results of the races are often uncertain just moments before the finish”.

Surrounded by a superb crew combining experience, youth and above all determination, the skipper of Groupama 34 is also reaping the rewards of excellent preparation and a training programme, which included the team from Dunkirk, skippered by Daniel Souben, who is currently lying in third position some eight points shy of second place.

The only surprise for Franck Cammas is his ranking in the offshore sprints: “I expected us to perform better in the offshore races, which are our speciality”. It should be noted though that they have won 3 out of 6…

Ultimately, of the 36 factors awarded, Groupama 34 has won 20 of them. That equates to the exact same number as those remaining in the Mediterranean stage…

Between now and Saturday however, the skipper is returning to Lorient to get some rest and also to spend some time at Groupama sailing team’s base, where the C-Class catamaran, aboard which he will be contesting the World Championships at the end of September in Falmouth, is in the process of being assembled.

Next meeting on 20 July in Roses, Spain, for the final week of racing in the 36th Tour de France, which will draw to a close in Marseille on 28 July.
Provisional overall ranking in St Gilles Croix de Vie:

1. Groupama 34 with 868 points
2. Bretagne Crédit Mutuel : – 55 points
3. Courrier Dunkerque : – 63 points
4. Sodebo : – 81 points
5. OmanSail : – 99 points
6. TPM : – 177 points
7. Genève : – 187 points
8. Nantes St Nazaire : – 204 points
9. Normandie : – 242 points
10. Martinique BE Brussels : – 272 points
11. Iskareen : – 284 points
12. Bienne Voile : – 329 points

 

Paul Campbell-James and Muscat Crew Wins Extreme 40 Cowes (Photo by Mark LLoyd / Lloyd Images / OC Events)

Paul Campbell-James and The Wave, Muscat Crew Wins Extreme 40 Cowes (Photo by Mark LLoyd / Lloyd Images / OC Events)

Paul Campbell-James on The Wave, Muscat has won the UK Round of the Extreme Sailing Series at Cowes Week – the first ever regatta win for the youngest skipper on the circuit – claiming an OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean watch as part of the prize as top Skipper for the UK round.  Thirty-six races over six days in front of 60,000+ spectators – the UK round of the five-stop circuit has delivered everything that the Extreme Sailing Series is about. Spectacular, adrenalin-pumping action on the water, enthralling the thousands of spectators who packed into the Extreme Race Village at Egypt Point and along The Esplanade.

The conditions throughout the event have demanded the utmost focus and physical effort from the nine competing teams and today was no exception with 20-25 knots of south-westerly breeze across the short race course and a choppy sea state.  Classic conditions for a potential pitch-pole or capsize and the crews knew it, racing with one reef in the mainsail and an extra fifth pro crew to add a bit of extra weight. The top mark proved a dangerous turning mark as they hoisted their giant gennakers to head downwind at full pelt – the crews ready in a second to ease the sails if the bows dug into the waves too deep.

Going into the fifth and final double points race of the day, Paul Campbell-James and his crew had almost done enough to keep the lead from Britain’s Mike Golding, but they had to finish the race – zero points and Ecover would claim the top spot. As it was the team did enough, scoring a 4th in the final race, to win the UK round of the Extreme Sailing Series on 249 points: “We knew if we capsized it would be the end of the regatta so pretty pleased to get through it,” said a relieved Campbell-James on the podium. 

Extreme 40 Sailing Series Fleet (Photo by Paul Weyth/ OC Events)

Extreme 40 Sailing Series Fleet (Photo by Paul Weyth/ OC Events)

But the Ecover team is ecstatic with their second overall place, their best result to date and appreciated the home crowd support: “It’s been great to have the support from the shore – you can even hear the yells and shouts from on board the boat,” said Golding. Tornado Olympic sailors Leigh McMillan and Will Howden have bought a new performance level to Mike’s team, who stepped back to allow the McMillan take the helm. It was a shrewd move and Golding’s team are really starting to gel, and will certainly be a force to contend with in the future.  Yann Guichard’s men on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, winners at the first round in France, always excel in light airs but struggle at times in heavy conditions. A final win in the last race would have lifted their spirits to secure third overall on the podium.

A real battle developed mid-leaderboard between Loick Peyron on Oman Sail Masirah, Red Bull Extreme Sailing and Groupama 40. Only a handful of points separated these three going into the final race. Peyron secured fourth overall, although he never really got into his stride here, and Roman Hagara on Red Bull Extreme Sailing claimed 5th and although lacked consistency they, nonetheless, scored six bullets, ahead of the fastest man round the planet Franck Cammas on Groupama 40.  Groupama 40 provided the most dramatic moment of the UK round on the second day when the 40-foot catamaran careered towards the concrete sea wall without steerage. Franck and the crew had no option but to leap to safety.

Team GAC Pindar, who had the satisfaction of claiming some race wins here, proving that when they get it right they are competitive, finished in 7th place ahead of Roland Jourdain’s Veolia Environnement who is competing in the UK round as a one-off experience (for now!).  For the co-creator of the Extreme 40 class, Mitch Booth and the Team Ocean Racing Club, it proved to be a disastrous regatta, breaking their front beam ahead of the penultimate day and then having to sit and watch the other eight boats have some of the best racing this circuit has ever seen.

The Wave, Muscat’s victory here means they now share the top spot on the overall Series leaderboard with 14 points apiece.  Two points behind Oman Sail Masirah on 12 points.

Next stop for the Extreme Sailing Series is Kiel in Germany between 26-29 August.

Franck Cammas and Groupama 40 Crew In The Water After Collision with Boat and Wall ( Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images / OC Events )

Franck Cammas and Groupama 40 Crew In The Water After Collision with Boat and Wall ( Photo by Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images / OC Events )

There was plenty of dramatic action on day two of the Extreme Sailing Series at Cowes Week today. With 18-20 knots of breeze, gusting over 20 at times, the nine teams were racing right on the edge, demanding 100% concentration and a constant rush of adrenalin for both the sailors and the spectators from the near capsizes, near misses and some not so near misses…
 
In race 11 (the fourth inshore race of today), approaching the windward mark Yann Guichard’s Groupe Edmond de Rothschild hit Franck Cammas’ Groupama 40 wiping out both rudders, leaving Groupama with no steerage whatsoever. Groupama 40 were heading straight for the shore at speed and for safety the crew leapt into the water to avoid the impact of hitting the sea wall – deciding they would prefer getting wet than being thrown forward on the boat and potentially injuring themselves. Groupama 40 has sustained both rudder and daggerboard damage and it will be a long night for the shore team to get them back racing tomorrow. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild has lodged a protest which the jury will hear and award redress if relevant.

 

 
Paul Campbell-James, the youngest skipper on the circuit at just 28, ensured The Wave, Muscat finished inside the top four in today’s races including the morning offshore race and the five inshore races this afternoon held off Egypt Point. Two wins this afternoon, two seconds and two third places put them top of the Extreme Sailing Series leaderboard on 85 points: “We got good starts which is a big part of today and we were pushing really hard downwind when we needed to. Sometimes we were so close to capsizing but you have to push it hard at times and back off at others.”

Yesterday, British skipper Mike Golding said he didn’t mind if they didn’t score any ‘bullets’ today, stating finishing inside the top four was more important. But his helm Leigh McMillan and the crew had other ideas – posting a win in the offshore race in the morning, then two further bullets in the penultimate and ultimate race of the day to finish in second place with 80 points. This kept the home crowd, who packed into the Extreme Bar and along the shoreline, happy as they cheered Golding’s crew all the way.

The Wave, Muscat At Cowes Week Extreme 40 Sailing (Photo by Paul Wyeth /  OC Events)

The Wave, Muscat At Cowes Week Extreme 40 Sailing (Photo by Paul Wyeth / OC Events)

All the skippers talk about the importance of consistency but yesterday’s leader Loick Peyron on Oman Sail Masirah found his top form elusive today, only posting a third place in the second race this afternoon which leaves Peyron’s team in third place overall with 74 points – 7 points ahead of Guichard’s team in 4th.

Double Olympic Gold Medalist Roman Hagara had another day of mixed fortunes – one race win and a second place in the penultimate race, keeps them in contention in the middle of the leaderboard in 6th place, five points behind Mitch Booth’s The Ocean Racing Club who did well in this morning’s offshore finishing in second. Another frustrating day for Roland Jourdain’s Veolia Environnement who had rudder problems before the start of the first race then had to drop the mainsail between races to sort out another problem. The team unpracticed in the art of Extreme 40 racing, put a reef in early and raced cautiously throughout the afternoon, although the 1989 Formula 40 World Champion demonstrated why he clinched that title with a couple of great starts.

Extreme Sailing Series At Cowes ( Photo by Paul Wyeth / OC Events )

Extreme Sailing Series At Cowes ( Photo by Paul Wyeth / OC Events )

 

The opening day of the UK round of the Extreme Sailing Series at Cowes Week opened at full throttle delivering some stunning race action to the crowds lining Cowes shoreline at Egypt Point as the nine Extreme 40s took centre stage for five short course races this afternoon.
Newcomers Veolia Environnement had their first extreme drama in the very first race when, just metres after the start in the afternoon, they collided with a mooring bouy ripping the helm out of skipper Roland Jourdain’s hand and breaking the starboard rudder. It put them out of action for the day but Veolia Environnement is anticipated to be back on the start line for tomorrow.

It was Loick Peyron and his crew that put in the most consistent performance of the afternoon starting with a fifth, then three second places and a bullet in the last race to put Oman Sail Masirah at the top of the leaderboard at the end of Day 1 with 46 points: “We work together to keep consistent because that’s what count here. Our objective is to make the top 4 in each race.”

Extreme Sailing Series At Cowes Day One (Photo by Paul Wyeth/ OC Events )

Extreme Sailing Series At Cowes Day One (Photo by Paul Wyeth/ OC Events )

Ecover’s combined local knowledge of the Solent waters put Golding’s team in the running, finishing day 1 in second place on the leaderboard – the best result ever in his second year of campaigning in the Extreme Sailing Series: “The main thing about today is that we loved the win to begin with but the key thing for us was that we were consistent in pretty much every race and really that’s the key to it. If we can be consistent tomorrow and don’t mind if we go the whole day without a bullet so long as we’re consistently doing well in the regatta.

After the offshore morning race from the Royal Yacht Squadron to the mainland at Calshot, won by Mike Golding’s Ecover Sailing Team, the afternoon inshore racing started in earnest. After a gloomy start, the sun kicked in and lit up the race course as a solid 12-18 knots of wind built and the spectators that sat out all afternoon were rewarded for their dedication as the nine Extreme 40s scorched around the very short racecourses, often with their bows down and rudders out drawing gasps and cheers from the public. The short courses and their proximity to the shore combined with the wind ensured the pace was frenetic, forcing plenty of mistakes, keeping the umpires on their toes and the Extreme crews having to think fast on their feet.

Double Olympic Gold Medallist Roman Hagara and his Red Bull Extreme Sailing team came out of the starting blocks on a mission but the conditions proved challenging in more ways than one, as Hagara summed up: “We crashed into a rock in the first race [long offshore], won the second race and will try and forget the rest of the day! One pre-start, one penalty and some mistakes…. We know that we can do it in a better way.”

“It was right on the limit today – the whole racecourse was very, very short and the differences between the front boat and the back boat were minuscule. It’s so easy to lose places and if you make one mistake you can drop three or four places, but you can win it back if you keep your game together. The fact that everything was happening at such a frenetic pace you can’t really think at that pace as there is so much happening, it’s hard to take it all in. It’s lovely here at Cowes – great venue, great shorefront and we can see and hear the people on the shore cheering and yelling, and that’s a great feeling which is unusual in sailing.”

Hot favourites Yann Guichard’s crew on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, found the conditions testing and finished in third place on the leaderboard with 38 points. It make take Guichard’s men a while to get used to the vagaries of The Solent but no one is under-estimating their comeback.

For full results, go to http://www.extremesailingseries.com/results/cowes/

Schedule for Sunday 1 August:

Planned from 12h00 – Moth Demonstrations & Racing
First Extreme 40 start at 3pm off Egypt Point
Daily public prizegiving 5.30pm
Jakey Chan & Wills of Steel 7-11pm Free entry

 

Cowes Action (Photo by Paul Wyeth / OC Events )

Cowes Action (Photo by Paul Wyeth / OC Events )

Groupama 3 In Cape Town (Photo by Alain Paulhac / Welcome on Board)

Groupama 3 In Cape Town (Photo by Alain Paulhac / Welcome on Board)

Whilst she was set to leave South Africa this Friday morning, the Groupama 3 trimaran has now been forced to remain in the port of Cape Town temporarily after her generator failed. 

“We were in the process of charging the batteries one last time when, all of a sudden, the alarm sounded in the engine compartment. After a thorough check by Yann Mérour, it has been deemed to be out of service. It’s annoying as we should already be at sea by now but that’s just the way it is” says Fred Le Peutrec. He continues: “It’s better that this problem occurred now rather than after we’d set sail because, without power, we can’t desalinate the seawater. As a result we would have been forced to make a stopover, which is never simple in such a large boat”.

Around the basin where Groupama 3 is tied up, cameras from all around the world are trained on the drawing of lots for the World Cup football tournament. However, the main focus for the Groupama Team is arranging a new Yanmar engine block to be sent down from France: “We’ve found an identical one to ours, which is a positive step. We just have to get it delivered to Cape Town, which isn’t easy. If everything goes smoothly at customs, we should receive the block on Sunday evening, assemble everything onto it on Monday and then head out to sea on Tuesday” explains Fred Le Peutrec.

Though it may seem surprising that a yacht is stuck in port with engine failure, it is worth pointing out that, without power, Groupama 3 is deprived of:
– Communication with land
– Weather information
– Lights and radar
– Electronic instruments showing the strength and direction of the wind
– Freshwater, which is essential for hydrating the crew and the freeze-dried food.

And even though Groupama 3 has a wind generator and solar panels, they are only back-up energy sources and hence not sufficient to cover the 6,000 miles (11,200 km) under satisfactory conditions of safety: “From our arrival in Cape Town, we decided that Groupama 3 had to leave South Africa in as close to perfect condition as possible in order to validate all the repair work on the return delivery trip. The same is true for the engine” adds Fred Le Peutrec, who concludes: “By leaving Cape Town on 8th December, we still have a chance of making Brest before the Christmas festivity. Indeed this is the latest challenge we have set ourselves as, together with the start of stand-by for the Jules Verne Trophy remaining set at 1st January, there will be little time left to share with our families”. 

 
The organisation of Groupama 3’s crew between Cape Town and Brest:
Watch No.1: Fred Le Peutrec, Eric Lamy, Nick Legatt
Watch No.2: Lionel Lemonchois, Ludovic Aglaor, Clément Surtel
Watch No.3: Ronan Le Goff, Thierry Duprey du Vordent, Jacques Caraës
Off-watch navigator: François Salabert
Land-based weather adviser: Sylvain Mondon

Groupama 3 In Capetown Awaiting Departure (Photo by Alain Paulhac / Welcome OnBoard)

Groupama 3 In Capetown Awaiting Departure (Photo by Alain Paulhac / Welcome OnBoard)

On stopover in Cape Town, South Africa since 21st November, after suffering damage during her Jules Verne Trophy attempt, the trimaran Groupama 3 will head back out to sea again tomorrow morning, Friday, bound for Brest. Having been repaired and reinforced by the team’s shore crew, the maxi trimaran is likely to take two to three weeks to cover the 6,000 miles (11,500 km) separating her from Brittany. 

Of the ten men making up the Jules Verne Trophy crew four will be onboard to deliver Groupama 3 to Brest, where she will begin a new period of stand-by to tackle the Round the World record on 1st January: “The presence aboard of the entire Jules Verne crew wasn’t justified. As such, together with Lionel Lemonchois, Jacques Caraës, Ronan Le Goff and six new crew, we’ll be in a position to validate the reliability of the repairs carried out in Cape Town” explains Fred Le Peutrec, who will be shouldering the role of skipper during this climb up the Atlantic.

“We’re going to make the most of this delivery trip to give some members of the shore crew a chance to sail, as they know Groupama 3 very well. They will include Eric Lamy, Clément Surtel as well as François Salabert. We will also be playing host to some other multihull specialists: Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, Ludovic Aglaor as well as a South African who notably sailed aboard Cheyenne, Nick Legatt” adds Fred Le Peutrec.

In all, Groupama’s stopover in Cape Town will have lasted nearly two weeks: “Once we’d worked out where the damage was, it was necessary to bring in the architects and engineers to determine the cause so that we could be sure about what repairs and reinforcement were required on the beam-float joints. There was great understanding in the collaboration between the Groupama Team’s research department and the architects from VPLP and HDS. As such we’ll be setting off with complete trust in what is a more solid boat in tip-top condition. It was very important for the whole team to take the time to do things properly, without being overly hasty” continues Fred.

Determined to set off on a fresh attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy from 1st January 2010, the crew of Groupama 3 has managed to find the energy necessary for this new challenge, despite the inevitable disappointment caused by this damage: “We were really on the pace. Despite our retirement, we monitored the evolution of the weather system we’d been sailing in. It was excellent as far as Australia. That goes to prove the quality of the work carried out by Stan Honey, our navigator, as well as Sylvain Mondon, the weather adviser at Météo France. This augurs well for the next stage and the five weeks of stand-by we’ll have at our disposal between 1st January and 6th February for our new attempt” comments Franck Cammas.

Returning to France a few days ago with Bruno Jeanjean, Thomas Coville, Stève Ravussin and soon to be joined by Loïc Le Mignon, the skipper of Groupama 3 will be monitoring the return delivery trip very closely: “We chose to repair Groupama 3 in Cape Town in order to validate her reliability at sea. Calculations have their limitations. Nothing can beat offshore trials for testing the structure and I have complete trust in the crew onboard to achieve this”.

As regards the weather, conditions will be favourable for getting back into the Northern hemisphere: “We’ll be setting off in 15 to 20 knots of SSE’ly. As such we’ll be on a reach along the coast until Sunday and then we’ll put in some westing to cross the equator at around 25° West. The next stage of the passage will depend on the depressions sweeping across the North Atlantic, but whatever happens we should make it into Brest before Christmas and hence spend the festive period with our families” concludes Fred Le Peutrec. 

 

The organisation of Groupama 3’s crew between Cape Town and Brest:
Watch No.1: Fred Le Peutrec, Eric Lamy, Nick Legatt
Watch No.2: Lionel Lemonchois, Ludovic Aglaor, Clément Surtel
Watch No.3: Ronan Le Goff, Thierry Duprey du Vordent, Jacques Caraës
Off-watch navigator: François Salabert
Land-based weather adviser: Sylvain Mondon

Groupama 3 In CapeTown (Photo by

Tied up alongside in the port of Cape Town since Saturday, Groupama 3 certainly isn’t being left in peace, far from it in fact. Barely had she reached the dock, then the shore crew managed by Yann Mérour, all of whom had made the trip down from Lorient, had taken control of matters with the assistance of the sailors. Structural analysis of the damage and observations made on site by composite specialists, confirm that it will indeed take a week’s work before Groupama 3 can head out to sea again, bound for Brest, for a new stand-by period set to begin on 1st January 2010. 

Benefiting from the technical means available in the Shosholoza base (a team which participated in the 32nd edition of the America’s Cup), Pierre Tissier, Sandy Blanalt, Sarah Lynch and Eric Beylot are all working on Groupama 3’s port float. In a dry, oppressive heat, which is favourable for working on carbon, they have begun by cutting out the faulty bulkhead and then constructing its replacement: “It’s never easy to work in such a confined space. Luckily this bulkhead is very close to the access hatch though. This enables us to poke our heads out into the fresh air on a regular basis. It certainly is hot though!” says Eric Beylot, who is almost missing the gloomy weather reigning back home in Brittany.

Franck Cammas (Photo by Team Groupama)

Franck Cammas (Photo by Team Groupama)

Having made the journey down from Johannesburg, three infra-red analysis specialists have inspected the affected zone without finding any side-effects. This is a good thing according to the skipper of Groupama 3, who only rarely leaves his telephone, as he’s in regular contact with his design office, the architects from the VPLP and HDS: “By running the data through their computers again, they’ve realised that the load case which concerns us today was not intended to exceed six tonnes. The sailing conditions we endured very certainly produced greater stresses than that. This is why we’re also going to reinforce the equivalent bulkhead on the starboard float” explains Franck.

As far as the rest of Groupama 3 is concerned though, she’s in perfect condition, ready to head back out to sea and set off once again to tackle this famous Jules Verne Trophy record, the value of which can now be appreciated even more: “It’s clear that in order to stand a chance of beating it, we’re going to have to go fast. We’re also going to have to go far, which we haven’t managed to do to date. It’s now down to us to prove we’re capable of that. From the moment the damage occurred, the whole crew have expressed their commitment to this. I’m proud of them and also proud of Groupama 3, which is an excellent boat. The same goes for my loyal partner, Groupama who, once again, are giving us their support in what is a difficult time” concludes Franck Cammas.

During this time, the rest of the crew are rinsing off the deck fittings and foulies, tidying up their `home’ and inspecting the deck from top to toe. Certain lines, such as those which control the descent and rise of the foils, are worn and have been replaced. When it’s time for lunch, conversations regularly revolve around the anecdotes experienced during the first 11 days of this Jules Verne Trophy attempt. These are always coloured by laughter which demonstrates, if there were a need, the extent of the bond between the ten crew, who together form a great team.

Groupama 3 Loic Le Mingnon In Action (Photo by Team Groupama)

Groupama 3 Loic Le Mingnon In Action (Photo by Team Groupama)

Over the past 24 hours, the crew of Groupama 3 has been working together to contain the damage suffered around the beam bulkhead. The maxi trimaran has also had to let the Brazilian low pass over the top of her, which created strong winds last night… Franck Cammas looks back at the past few hours in the middle of the Southern Atlantic. 

What is your current situation?
“We’re flirting with the centre of a big low, which has pushed us towards the Cape of Good Hope. However, a secondary low has formed over the cold front, with wind which can very quickly increase to 60 knots! As such we’ve taken refuge not far from the centre of the big low to let all that get past us. This is why we spent the whole night barepoled, heading due South. Since 0200 UTC this morning, we’ve been able to hoist more sail aloft as conditions have become more manageable. At the end of the afternoon we’re set to gybe and make headway eastwards towards Cape Town, by remaining at the rear of the worst of the bad weather. There will continue to be a swell and big seas and there’s still some debate as to how to handle the boat so as to prevent her from suffering. We won’t be taking any risks, even if we have to stop…”

How is life on board being organised?
“Everyone is busy with their own tasks: the lamination specialists (Lionel Lemonchois assisted by Thomas Coville) have been working throughout the night. We’re all disappointed but we’re already casting our minds to the future. We’re going to try to get Groupama 3 back to Brittany as fast as possible. When we decided to abandon the record attempt it came as a harsh blow: we went from a performance configuration to a simple delivery. It’s not the same life aboard, the atmosphere isn’t the same and the time seems to go by a lot slower. Fortunately we’ve got some books on board to be able to escape a little when we’re not helming…”

Do you have an explanation for this damage?
“We think that the stresses and motion of the float are the cause of it. There are always some interference effects which are difficult to model on a computer though. The waves never strike the boat in the same way and the platform is subject to some disorganised behaviour: there are some extremely violent vibrations in a chaotic sea. We think that the float has been able to ripple longitudinally with a series of waves on the stern, whilst the support level with the beam is very rigid. At that stage, the bulkhead cracking was the pivotal point in this scenario…”

What is the extent of the damage?
“The breakage isn’t spectacular, but we know things could deteriorate very quickly and impact on the structural integrity of Groupama 3. It’s worrying and will force us to make a technical pitstop, but it’s a lot less serious than the last time… The bulkhead which extends along the beam by entering the float has split open: We’ve had to install two braces to maintain the separation between two sections of the bulkhead, and then insert some foam before sticking it back together. Right now the bulkhead has been stiffened. However, we still have a problem with it as the bulkhead has caused the skin inside the float to become detached across an area of around 400 mm. For the time being we haven’t succeeded in sticking the float to the bulkhead so it’s moving with every wave. We have to hope that the UDs (unidirectional materials) which stiffen the base of the float don’t break, because that section is the float’s backbone! As such we’re going to have to find a way of joining the whole periphery of the bulkhead to the float.”

What are your objectives now?
“We’re going to have to reinforce the four beam attachments but first of all we’re going to have to carry out a thorough analysis with the engineers and architects. We certainly won’t be able to set off on a round the world without trusting in the repair and without knowing the reasons for this damage. It’s not 100% certain we’ll be able to set off again at the end of January. However, given that we left Ushant very early on, there is still a chance we can set off again before the season draws to a close. It’s feasible! We’re going to have to be happy with Groupama 3’s capacity to sail around the world though…”

What are the options over the coming days?
“We’ll get to Cape Town by 22nd November at best, or by 24th November at the latest. There is also a third option, which is to make straight for Lorient if the repairs we make at sea are satisfactory. This would save us a lot of time in our bid to get going on another attempt at the record. Currently there is no danger of the mast falling as it’s fixed onto another bulkhead and we’ve even been able to hoist the sail again, making 17 knots with the right angles to the wind and the seas…”